When Devon Toews was selected in the fourth round in 2014, most Islanders fans probably didn't give it too much positive thought. He was already 20, he was erroneously listed at 155 lbs., and he was in a program whose brand name recognition lagged behind its rising on-ice trajectory.
The British Columbia native had gone the NCAA route after playing Junior A in Surrey. He'd had a good freshman year -- his coach called it "phenomenal" -- plenty enough to make him seem like a good value pick at 108th overall but easily filed away in the "maybe if everything breaks right" file that just about every late-round pick falls into.
But Toews followed that freshman year with two increasingly strong seasons for Quinnipiac, which won ECAC but lost in the NCAA final championship game this season. So there are caveats to his productivity, such as playing on a very good team as one of those "overage" collegians (not really, but he entered college a year older than the traditional non-USHL/junior A freshman), and the fact he's a proverbial late bloomer. But he's done nothing but improve his stock since the draft.
Various reports from inside and outside his collegiate team are good. Coaches rave about him. Teammates like him. Scouts say don't overlook him. He wasn't a ridealong for Quinnipiac, he was one of the key contributors to their success as a minutes-eating two-way defenseman, captain and power play guide.
He signed his ELC at the end of this season and is ready to in Bridgeport next year, when we expect he'll be shooting up this ranking.
How We Voted, and a Little about the Why
A note about the math, or why Toews is at 20 despite getting five votes under 20: The bottom six (20-25) did not appear on all ballots, so their average rank can be different than their 25U25 ranking vs. everyone else.
By Toews not appearing on his ballot, readers are deprived of the Leboff poetry you're about to see throughout the rest of the countdown. Here's what several of us had to say.
David King (CanadianIslesLifer):
Admittedly, I haven't seen much of Toews, but his improved boxcar stats and the reviews he's received from coaches and scouts is enough to draw attention. The fact he's added some inches (he's now listed as 6'1, 180 pounds), and now has an NHL frame is all the more encouraging.
It's difficult to project NCAA defenseman. Regardless, 7 goals, 23 assists for 30 pts. in 40 games with 26 PIMs and a +27 is impressive. Internet reports state that Toews is used in all situations.
If Toews pans out, the Islanders will have a 2nd pairing LD with speed who is sound defensively, can drive play and capable offensively. In other words, an all situations player who is good in all three zones and eat a lot of ice time.
30 points in 40 games at the collegiate level is relatively decent. He's 22 now and he needs to make the jump to the semi-pro level if he wants to have a legitimate chance however.
And now hear from our jokesters...
Had a lot of acclaim from people who follow college and some real solid numbers playing with Quinnipiac. Excited to see him with Bridgeport.
Makes the Top 20 because I know how to pronounce his last name...or do I?
A team captain in college, which is... nice. That's nice. It's nice to be nice to the nice.
But seriously, bottom line: Toews had an impressive NCAA career. There is promise here, but also urgency, as at age 22 it's already time to show immediate progress at the pro level.